Why The United States Is So Much Larger Today Than It Was In 2023

Why The United States Is So Much Larger Today Than It Was In 2023

The United States has recently expanded its territory significantly, claiming about 400,000 square miles as of January 2024 under a little-known United Nations policy called the Extended Continental Shelf. This article explores the reasons behind the expansion, the legal framework allowing it, and the potential implications for the country’s future.

The Extended Continental Shelf and International Maritime Laws

Our world is predominantly covered by vast oceans that separate relatively small land masses. To regulate territorial control over the oceans, the United Nations has established unique laws. Traditionally, countries have territorial waters extending 12 nautical miles off their coastlines and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that go beyond territorial waters. The EEZ grants special rights for resource exploration, but it doesn’t include full sovereignty over the water itself.

However, the concept of the extended continental shelf further expands a country’s oceanic claims. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, if a country can prove its continental shelf extends beyond the 200 nautical mile limit of its EEZ, it gains exclusive rights to exploit resources on and below the seabed.

The Process of Claiming an Extended Continental Shelf

Claiming an extended continental shelf involves submitting detailed scientific data to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, a body established by the United Nations. If the commission validates the claim, the coastal state gains exclusive rights to exploit resources on the seabed and subsoil of the extended shelf, such as oil, gas, and minerals.

Not Every Country Has an Extended Continental Shelf

While every recognized country with a coastline has territorial waters and an EEZ, not every country has an extended continental shelf. Proving the right to this claim is challenging. The United States, as of January 2024, has submitted its claims for expanding its territory based on this UN policy.

The United States’ Recent Territorial Expansion

The United States has expanded its territory in six areas, the largest being in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska, adding approximately 200,000 square miles. The Arctic region is potentially rich in oil, making it a valuable addition. Other additions include areas in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast, the North Pacific, the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.

The Implications and Motivations Behind the Expansion

The United States’ interest in underwater land stems from the potential for deep-sea mining. The ocean floor is a source of minerals like lithium, scandium, and cobalt, crucial for various technologies, including batteries. Norway has already started commercial deep-sea mining, and the United States aims to join in as technology improves.


In conclusion, the United States’ recent territorial expansion is rooted in the pursuit of valuable underwater resources permitted under international law. While the underwater land may be challenging to access, advancements in technology make it a strategic move for future resource independence. As the United States awaits validation from the United Nations, it anticipates the potential for significant growth in the years to come.


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